Functionalized de Novo designed proteins: Mechanism of proton coupling to oxidation/reduction in heme protein maquettes

Julia M. Shifman, Christopher C. Moser, William A. Kalsbeck, David F. Bocian, P. Leslie Dutton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Proton exchange with aqueous media coupled to heme oxidation/reduction is commonly seen but not understood in natural cytochromes. Our synthetic tetrahelix bundle heme protein maquettes successfully reproduce natural proton coupling to heme oxidation/reduction. Potentiometry reveals major pK shifts from 4.2 to 7.0 and from 9.4 to 10.3 in the maquette-associated acid/base group(s) upon heme reduction. Consequently, a 210 mV decrease in the heme redox potential is observed between the two extremes of pH. Potentiometry with resonance Raman and FTIR spectroscopy performed over a wide pH range strongly implicates glutamate side chains as the source of proton coupling below pH 8.0, whereas lysine side chains are suggested above pH 8.0. Remarkably, the pK values of several glutamates in the maquette are elevated from their solution value (4.4) to values as high as 7.0. It is suggested that these glutamates are recruited into the interior of the bundle as part of a structural rearrangement that occurs upon heme binding. Glutamate to glutamine variants of the prototype protein demonstrate that removal of the glutamate closest to the heme diminishes but does not abolish proton exchange. It is necessary to remove additional glutamates before pH- independent heme oxidation/reduction profiles are achieved. The mechanism of redox-linked proton coupling appears to be rooted in distributed partial charge compensation, the magnitude of which is governed by the dielectric distance between the ferric heme and acid/base side chains. A similar mechanism is likely to exist in native redox proteins which undergo charge change upon cofactor oxidation/reduction.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)16815-16827
Number of pages13
Issue number47
StatePublished - 24 Nov 1998
Externally publishedYes


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